Editor’s Note: This article was first published by RepublicReports.org.
Selling out pays. If you’re a corporation or lobbyist, what’s the best way to “buy” a member of Congress? Secretly promise them a million dollars or more in pay if they come to work for you after they leave office. Once a public official makes a deal to go to work for a lobbying firm or corporation after leaving office, he or she becomes loyal to the future employer. And since those deals are done in secret, legislators are largely free to pass laws, special tax cuts, or earmarks that benefit their future employer with little or no accountability to the public. While campaign contributions and super PACS are a big problem, the everyday bribery of the revolving door may be the most pernicious form of corruption today. (See our post on Monday about current members of Congress already negotiating for jobs on K Street.)
Unlike some other forms of money in politics, politicians never have to disclose job negotiations while in office, and never have to disclose how much they’re paid after leaving office. In many cases, these types of revolving door arrangements drastically shape the laws we all live under. For example, former Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) spent his last year in office fighting reforms to bring greater transparency to the derivatives marketplace. Almost as soon as he left office, he joined the board of a derivatives trading company and became an “advisor” to Goldman Sachs. Risky derivative trading exacerbated the financial crisis of 2008, yet we’re stuck under the laws written in part by Gregg. How much has he made from the deal? Were his actions in office influenced by relationships with his future employers?
Republic Report combed through the few disclosures that are out there to find out how much lawmakers make when they sell out and lobby for interests they once oversaw as public officials. To be sure, this list only shows the tip of the iceberg (out of the forty-four lawmakers who left office in 2010 for a lobbying-related career, only one is at an organization that discloses his salary).
Our research effort uncovered the partial salaries of twelve lawmakers-turned-lobbyists. Republic Report’s investigation found that lawmakers increased their salary by 1452 percent on average from the last year they were in office to the latest publicly available disclosure:
Former Congressman Billy Tauzin (R-LA) made $19,359,927 as a lobbyist for pharmaceutical companies between 2006 and 2010. Tauzin retired from Congress in 2005, shortly after leading the passage of President Bush’s prescription drug expansion. He was recruited to lead PhRMA, a lobbying association for Pfizer, Bayer, and other top drug companies. During the health reform debate, the former congressman helped his association block a proposal to allow Medicare to negotiate for drug prices, a major concession that extended the policies enacted in Tauzin’s original Medicare drug-purchasing scheme. Tauzin left PhRMA in late 2010. He was paid over $11 million in his last year at the trade group. Comparing Tauzin’s salary during his last year as congressman and his last year as head of PhRMA, his salary went up 7110 percent.